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Triggers of migraine and tension-type headache in China: a clinic-based survey



Background and purpose

Identification of the trigger factors of headache could be an important aspect of preventive management, but the characteristics of primary headache triggers in China are unknown. This study was performed to estimate the frequencies of the putative headache triggers, which are endorsed by patients with migraine and tension-type headache (TTH).


From July 2011 to December 2011, a cross-sectional survey was conducted in the neurological clinic of a tertiary care hospital in Chongqing. All consecutive patients with the chief complaint of headache were interviewed by a board-certified headache specialist. The diagnoses were made according to International Classification of Headache Disorders – 2nd edition. Patients with migraine and TTH were recruited.


The number of investigated patients was 1219, of whom 394 were migraine and 344 were TTH; and 80.2% migraineurs and 67.4% TTH patients reported trigger factors. The most common triggers for both migraine and TTH were sleep disturbance, negative affect and sunlight. Menstrual cycle (OR 3.6, 95%CI 1.2, 11.2), change of the weather (OR 3.1, 95%CI 1.9, 4.8), noise (OR 2.2, 95%CI 1.1, 4.4) and alcohol (OR 1.8, 95%CI 0.7, 1.8) were more associated with migraineurs. Negative affect was more associated with TTH (OR 2.0, 95%CI 1.3, 2.9).


Trigger factors were frequent among both migraine and TTH patients. Avoidance of all headache triggers is impractical. Learning to cope with triggers is important to headache prevention.